First published at Helen Merrick’s blog.
Kate Gordon lives in Hobart, in a mint-green cottage, with her husband, her very strange cat, Mephy Danger Gordon, and a wonderful little girl who goes by the name of Tiger. Kate dreams that one day she and her little family will live in another cottage, by the beach, with goats and chickens. In the meantime, she fills her house with books, perfects her gluten-free baking technique, has marvellous adventures with Tiger, and she writes. Kate’s first book, Three Things About Daisy Blue – a Young Adult novel about travel, love, self-acceptance and letting go – was published in the Girlfriend series by Allen and Unwin in 2010. Her second book, Thyla, was published by Random House Australia in April 2011 and her third book, Vulpi, the sequel to Thyla, was published in April 2012. Her latest book, Writing Clementine, was published in June 2014 by Allen and Unwin.
Kate was the recipient of 2011 and 2012 Arts Tasmania Assistance to Individuals grants, which means she can now spend more time doing what she loves. You can find her online at http://www.kategordon.com.au/blog
1. Your new book is the heartfelt and touching coming of age story, Writing Clementine. While it is mainstream YA, there are speculative elements present in the wonderfully eclectic and supportive steampunk society featured in the book. Was this influenced by your own encounters with ‘geek culture’ and the spec-fic community?
It was partly influenced by my genre crush on steampunk. I have friends who write steampunk novels and I am thoroughly envious. I’m totally in love with the aesthetic and wish I had the guts to dress like Clem does (though, I’d probably go for the knickerbockers and waistcoat, rather than the corset)! Funnily enough, though, the greater part of the influence came from my time in the SCA (Society of the Creative Anachronism – mediaeval re-enactment, for the laypeople out there). I didn’t do it for very long, but I’m fascinated with the whole idea of accountants and teachers and hairdressers who ditch their business suits and aprons to don armour and go jousting and feasting all weekend. I guess it’s the same for any fandom – the attraction of casting off your mundane garb and becoming someone entirely else for a little while. From Dungeons and Dragons to WoW to Magic Cards to cosplay – the freedom to totally lose yourself in a whole other world is intoxicating. I’d love to write a sequel to Clementine,seeing where she goes with it!
2. Your previous series was a YA fantasy duology about shapeshifters set against some of the darker elements of Tasmanian history. What inspired you to tell this story as fantasy rather than straight history?
I’ve always loved historical reimaginings. Maybe it’s just a childhood watching Doctor Who and Monty Python – I’ve always got a little thrill from thinking “what if”. What if this time-travelling alien really did land in Elizabethan England? What if Brian was the new messiah? What if (as in Heather Rose’s The Butterfly Man), Lord Lucan really did scarper to Mount Wellington, Tasmania after offing the housemaid? It was the last one that inspired me the most – the idea that there’s something going on up that grand, mysterious mountain that we don’t know about. Having also had a long-stranding passion for shapeshifters, thanks mostly to Tamora Pierce, it just made logical sense to me that, if there is something strange going on up the mountain, it’s probably shapeshifting Tasmanian tigers. And there are so many straight Tasmanian histories out there (which is a brilliant thing, as each one uncovers some wondrous new truth), I thought we could do with one that had were-thylacine in it.
3. Do you see yourself returning to fantasy at all, or is there another genre you would like to write in? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Yes! I definitely want to continue writing spec fic in some shape or form. I really love horror as well, and have been inspired to write more of that after re-reading Lovecraft recently. I want to explore horror, fantasy, paranormal and other spec fic genres (maybe even steampunk, if I’m brave enough), in a short fiction form, as that’s something I’ve never felt was my strong suit, and I’m looking for a challenge. I’m really keen on writing some magic realist picture books, too. I’m really into Shaun Tan. I’d love to do something like what he does, eventually. At the moment I’m working on another contemporary YA, but that’s only because that story was calling to me. I have no idea what I’ll do next!
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Ah! So many! But here are just a few of the ones I’ve read and adored very recently:
- Two Wolves, by Tristan Bancks
- The One and Only Jack Chant, by Rosie Borella
- Cracked, by Clare Strahan
- Jumping Fences, by Karen Wood
- Kill the Music, by Nansi Kunze
- My Life As An Alphabet, by Barry Jonsberg
- Girl Defective, by Simmone Howell
- The First Third, by Will Kostakis
- The Zigzag Effect, by Lili Wilkinson
… And a few non-YA:
- Ink Black Magic, by Tansy Rayner Roberts
- Peacemaker, by Marianne de Pierres
- Eyrie, by Tim Winton
- Coal Creek, by Alex Miller
- The Long Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan
- Bay of Fires, by Poppy Gee
- Barracuda, by Christos Tsiolkas
- The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
- The Blue Cathedral, by Cameron Hindrum
… And some picture books, for my Tiger:
- Mr Chicken Lands on London, by Leigh Hobbs
- Monsters of Tasmania, by Rachel Tribout
- I Was Only Nineteen, by John Schumann, illustrated by Craig Smith
- Welcome Home, by Christina Booth
- The Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan
And, oh, there are probably a bazillion more I’ve forgotten!
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
Hmm … Tough question. I guess it’s a bit harder for everyone to get published than it was even a few years back, when I started out. My first book was published in 2010, so not so long ago, but things have changed radically since then. I’m very, very, very lucky to have found a brilliant publisher in Allen and Unwin, who had faith in me. I’m lucky to have a great agent, too. I never for a moment forget my gratitude for those two serendipitous, wonderful things. I’m actually excited, though, about the future of publishing. As long as marvelous publishers keep up with changes, I think the years ahead are thrilling ones. As for what I’ll be reading … The same, I guess. I have little time, so I pick my reads carefully. I rely on word-of-mouth and recommendations for my next book, and I’ll continue to do so. I’ll be writing whatever story calls to me. I’m hoping people will still want to read what I have to write. I’m eager to see what the future offers up!